Background Notes: Turkey

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Jan 15, 19911/15/91 Category: Country Data Region: Europe Country: Turkey Subject: Travel, History, International Organizations, Trade/Economics [TEXT] Official Name: Republic of Turkey


Area: 766,640 sq. km. (296,000 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Texas. Cities: Capital-Ankara (pop. 3.69 million). Other cities-Istanbul (6.82 million), Izmir (2.61 million), Adana (1.93 million). Terrain: Narrow coastal plain surrounds Anatolia; an inland plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward. Turkey includes one of the more earthquake-prone areas of the world. Climate: Moderate in coastal areas, harsher temperatures inland.
Nationality: Noun-Turk(s). Adjective-Turkish. Population (1989 est.): 55.3 million. Annual growth rate: 2.2%. Ethnic groups: Turkish, Kurdish, other. Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian, Jewish. Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Arabic. Education: Years compulsory-6. Attendance-95%. Literacy-89%. Health: Infant mortality rate-62/1,000. Life expectancy-66 yrs. Work force (18.7 million): Agriculture-50%. Industry and commerce-21%. Services- 29%.
Type: Republic. Independence: 1923. Constitution: November 7, 1982. Branches: Executive-president (chief of state), prime minister, Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative-Grand National Assembly (450 members) chosen by national elections at least every 5 years. Judicial-constitutional court, court of cassation, council of state, high council of judges and prosecutors. Political parties: Motherland Party (ANAP), Social Democrat Populist Party (SHP), Correct Way Party (DYP), democratic Left Party (DSP), several smaller parties. Suffrage: Universal, 21 and older. Central government budget (1989 est.): $15.5 billion (32,933 billion Turkish lira). Defense: 2.8% of 1989 GDP or 13.2% of 1989 budget. National holiday: Republic Day, October 29. Flag: White crescent and star on a red field.


GNP (1989 estimate): $80.5 billion. Annual growth rate (1983-89): 5.3%. Per capita income (1989 estimate): $1,433. Avg. annual inflation rate (1989): About 68.8%. Natural resources: Coal, chromite, copper, boron, oil. Agriculture (15% of GNP): Major cash crops-cotton, sugar beets, hazelnuts, wheat, barley, and tobacco. Provides more than 55% of jobs, 25% of exports. Industry (32% of GNP): Major growth sector. Types-Food processing, textiles, basic metals, chemicals, and petrochemicals. Trade (1989): Exports-$12 billion: tobacco, cotton, textiles, cement, raisins, nuts, leather, glass, ceramics. Imports-$16 billion: petroleum, pharmaceuticals and dyes, iron and steel, machinery, plastics and rubber, transport vehicles. Major partners- France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, UK, US, USSR. Fiscal year: Calendar year. Official exchange rate (Feb. 1990): 2408 Turkish lira=US$1 (adjusted daily). US economic aid (FY 1946-90): $4.3 billion. US military aid (FY 1946-90): more than $14 billion.
Membership in International Organizations
UN, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Council of Europe, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Islamic Conference Organization (OIC), European Community (EC) associate member, ITELSAT.


Bridging Europe and Asia Minor, Turkey is a land of geographic, economic, and social contrasts. Slightly larger than Texas, modern Turkey spans bustling cosmopolitan centers, pastoral farming villages, barren wastelands, peaceful Aegean islands, and steep mountain regions. More than half of Turkey's population-expected to reach 83 million by 2005 if its annual growth rate of 2.2% continues-live in urban areas that juxtapose Western life-styles with squatter dwellings that increasingly ring the cities' edges. Most Turks, however, work on farms. Although Turkey is still a developing country, recent improvements in services have resulted in the proliferation of electricity nationwide and telephone connections for all its 34,500 villages. Although 98% of the population is Muslim, Turkey has been officially secular since the early 1920s. Most Turkish Muslims belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The state exercises no legal discrimination against its non-Islamic minorities, primarily Armenian and Syriac Christians, nd Jews. Turks of Kurdish origin constitute an ethnic and linguistic group. Estimates of their population range up to 10 million. Although an increasing number have migrated to the cities, the traditional home of the Kurds is in poor, remote areas of the east and southeast, where incomes are less than half the national average and economic development lags.
Turkish culture, rich in Ottoman and folkloric elements, is traditional and modern. Turkish carpet weaving is one of the oldest crafts in the world. Ceramics and other Ottoman-era crafts retain their varied regional character. Modern Turkish cultural life dates from the 1923 founding of the republic and early efforts to Westernize Turkish society. As a result, the arts, literature, drama, and classical and contemporary music have flourished. State support of cultural activities is extensive and encompasses a national network of theaters, orchestras, opera and ballet companies, university fine arts academies, and various conservatories. Public funds also are used to provide partial support for private theater groups and for major art exhibitions and festivals.


The legendary Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish World War I hero later known as "Ataturk" or "father of the Turks," founded the republic of Turkey in 1923 after the collapse of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire. The empire, which at its peak controlled vast stretches of northern Africa, southeastern Europe, and western Asia, had failed to keep pace with European social and technological developments. The rise of nationalism impelled several ethnic groups to seek independence, leading to the empire's fragmentation. This process culminated in the disastrous Ottoman participation in World War I as a German ally. Defeated, shorn of much of its former territory, and partly occupied by forces of the victorious European states, the Ottoman structure was repudiated by Turkish nationalists who rallied under Ataturk's leadership. The nationalists expelled invading Greek forces from Anatolia after a bitter war. The temporal and religious ruling institutions of the old empire (the sultanate and caliphate) were abolished. The new republic concentrated on Westernizing the empire's Turkish core-Anatolia and a small part of Thrace. Social, political, linguistic, and economic reforms and attitudes introduced by Ataturk before his death in 1938 continue to form the ideological base of modern Turkey. Referred to as "Kemalism," it comprises secularism, nationalism, and modernization and turns toward the West for inspiration and support. The continued validity and applicability of Kemalism are the subject of frequent discussion and debate in Turkey's political life. Turkey entered World War II on the Allied side shortly before the war ended and became a charter member of the United Nations. Difficulties faced by Greece after World War II in quelling a Communist rebellion and demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits caused the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece and resulted in large-scale US military and economic aid. After participating with United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey in 1952 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Military Coups and Coalitions
One-party rule (Republican People's Party-RPP) established by Ataturk in 1923 lasted until elections in 1950. The Democrat Party then governed Turkey until 1960, when growing economic problems and internal political tensions culminated in a military coup. A new constitution was written, and civilian government was reinstated with the convening of the Grand National Assembly (GNA) in 1961. In addition, the new constitution established a National Security Council (NSC) composed of the chief of the Turkish general staff and representatives of the army, air force, and navy. Coalition governments, dominated by the RPP, ruled Turkey for the next 5 years. In 1965 and 1969, the Justice Party (JP), led by Suleyman Demirel, won sizable majorities of GNA seats and ruled alone. Political agitation surfaced in 1968 and increased as left- and right-wing extremists took to the streets. In March 1971, senior military leaders grew dissatisfied with the JP's inability to cope with domestic violence. In a so-called "coup by memorandum," they called for the JP's replacement by a more effective government. Demirel's government resigned and was replaced by a succession of "above party" governments, which ruled until the October 1973 general elections. Those elections saw the RPP reemerge as the largest party and its chairman, Bulent Ecevit, become prime minister of a coalition government composed of the RPP and the conservative, religiously oriented National Salvation Party. In 1974, the coalition faltered. Ecevit resigned, early elections were called, and a prolonged government crisis ensued. From 1975 to 1980, unstable coalition governments ruled, led alternately by Demirel and Ecevit. By the end of 1979, an accelerating decline in the economy, coupled with mounting violence from the extreme left and right, led to increasing instability. Demirel's government began an economic stabilization program in early 1980, but by summer, political violence was claiming more than 20 victims daily. A severely divided GNA was unable to elect a new president or to pass other legislation to cope with the crisis. On September 12, 1980, the NSC, led by General Kenan Evren, moved successfully to restore public order. Thousands of terrorists were captured, along with large caches of weapons and ammunition. While political activity was banned and the former political parties dissolved, the NSC initiated steps to restore democratic civilian rule by 1983. These measures included a national referendum on November 7, 1982, which resulted in overwhelming public approval (91%) of a new constitution drawn up by the 160-member Consultative Assembly and modified by the NSC. The referendum simultaneously approved General Evren as president for a 7-year term. A temporary article banning former political party leaders from politics for 10 years also went into effect. New political parties were allowed to form in 1983 as long as founding members were not leaders or members of parliament attached to any pre-1980 political parties. Prior to the deadline for participation in the 1983 national elections, three political parties-the Nationalist Democracy Party, the Motherland Party, and the Populist Party-were authorized. In the 1983 elections, the Motherland Party (founded by Turgut Ozal, deputy prime minister between 1980 and 1982 and architect of Turkey's successful economic austerity program under the military government) won an absolute majority in the 400-member Grand National Assembly (GNA). The Populist Party came in second, and the Nationalist Democracy Party third. The new government took office in December 1983. The Ozal administration, the first civilian government since the early 1970s to rule without coalition partners, made economic reform its priority. In September 1987, a referendum lifting the 10-year ban on former politicians passed by a small margin. Ozal called immediately for national elections, the first since 1980 in which all legal parties were allowed to participate. The elections were held in November, and Ozal won a second 5-year term and a comfortable majority in parliament (292 of 450 seats based on a weighted proportional system). The Social Democrat Populist Party won 99 seats and became the main opposition party. Former Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel's Correct Way Party won 59 seats. No other party reached the 10% level necessary to enter parliament. The Democratic Left Party of former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit won only 8% of the vote. The next parliamentary election is due in 1992. In 1989, Ozal was elected president. Ozal's Motherland Party suffered a setback in March 1989 municipal elections, receiving only 22% of the votes cast; down from 36% in 1987. The opposition has since called repeatedly for early parliamentary elections.


The 1982 constitution preserves a democratic, secular, parliamentary form of government with a strengthened presidency. It provides for an independent judiciary and safeguards internationally recognized human rights. These rights, including freedom of thought, expression, assembly, and travel, can be limited in times of emergency and cannot be used to violate the integrity of the state or to impose a system of government based on religion, ethnicity, or the domination of one social class. The constitution prohibits torture or ill treatment. Labor rights, including the right to strike, are recognized in the constitution but can be restricted. The president and prime minister share executive powers. The president, who has broad powers of appointment and supervision, is chosen by the GNA for a term of 7 years and cannot be reelected. The prime minister administers the government. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible to the GNA. The 450-member GNA carries out legislative functions. Election is by proportional representation. To participate in the distribution of seats, a party must obtain at least 10% of the votes cast at the national level as well as a percentage of votes in the contested district according to a complex formula. This "double threshold" or "barrage" mechanism is intended to reduce the likelihood of coalition governments by reducing the number of smaller parties in parliament. The president is to enact laws passed by the GNA within 15 days. With the exception of budgetary laws, the president may return a law to the GNA for reconsideration. If the GNA reenacts the law, it is binding. Constitutional amendments require a two- thirds majority for approval. They also may be submitted to popular referendum. The 1982 constitution preserves the judicial system previously in effect and provides for a system of state security courts to deal with offenses against the integrity of the state. The high court system remains in place with its functional division, common in European states, including a constitutional court responsible for judicial review of legislation, a court of cassation (or supreme court of appeals), a council of state serving as the high administrative and appeals court, a court of accounts, and a military court of appeals. The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, appointed by the president, supervises the judiciary. Only the Motherland Party remains of the three parties that competed in the 1983 elections. The Nationalist Democracy Party dissolved itself, and the Populist Party merged with the Social Democrat Populist Party, a new center-left party.
Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic-Turgut Ozal Prime Minister-Yildirim Akbulut Minister of Foreign Affairs-Ahmet Kurtcebe Alpetemocin Ambassador to the United States-Nuzhet Kandemir Ambassador to the United Nations-Mustafa Aksin Turkey maintains an embassy in the United States at 1714 Massachussets Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20036 and consulates general in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston.


Turkey's armed forces, with more than 700,000 members, are the largest in NATO after those of the United States. Turkey entered NATO in 1952 and serves as the organization's vital eastern anchor, sharing a long sea and land border with the Soviet Union and controlling the straits leading from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Two NATO headquarters are located in Izmir. More than 10,000 US military personnel and their dependents are stationed at installations in Turkey, including a major air base at Incirlik, near Adana, several communications and electronics facilities, and a number of smaller installations. Major American military organizations in Turkey include the Joint US Military Mission for Aid to Turkey and the US Logistical Group, each headed by a US major general. With assistance from the United States and other NATO allies, the Turkish military is undergoing major modernization.


Besides its relationships with NATO and the European Community (EC), Turkey is a member of the OECD and the Council of Europe. Its primary political, economic, and security ties are with the West. During the last several years, Turkey has continued to expand its relations with Western Europe, rejoining the Council of Europe after an absence of several years and applying for full membership in the EC. Turkey also has continued to expand its trade relations with the Middle East and the Soviet Union.


Turkish-American friendship dates to the late 18th century and was officially sealed by a treaty in 1830. The present close relationship began with the agreement of July 12, 1947, which implemented the Truman Doctrine. As part of the cooperative effort to further Turkish economic and military self-reliance, the United States has loaned and granted Turkey more than $4 billion in economic aid and more than $14 billion in military assistance. US-Turkish relations were severely tested in July 1974, when Turkey invoked a 1960 treaty of guarantee for Cyprus and sent troops there to protect the Turkish Cypriot community following the overthrow of the Cypriot government by mainland Greek officers in the Cypriot national guard. The ensuing fighting on Cyprus led to Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island, which remains in place today. Turkey's use of American-supplied arms during the intervention caused the US Congress to mandate an embargo in 1975 on military shipments to Turkey. Resentment of this action led to a Turkish decision in July 1975 to suspend important US defense activities at joint installations and cancel the 1969 defense cooperation agreement. The US embargo was relaxed in October 1975, and in March 1976 a new defense agreement was signed, but not approved, by the Congress. In September 1978, the embargo ended and US-Turkish relations improved markedly. Turkey lifted restrictions on US activities in late 1978. The United States and Turkey signed a defense and economic cooperation agreement in March 1980 that established a new framework for US military activities in Turkey and committed the United States to "best efforts" in providing defense support to the Turkish armed forces. The two countries signed an exchange of letters in March 1987 to extend the agreement through December of 1990. It will continue automatically on a year-to-year basis from 1991 on, unless one of the two parties objects by September 18, 1991, or by the 18th of any following year. Turkey temporarily imposed some restrictions on American military activities in early 1990 in response to the US Senate's consideration of a resolution to declare a day of remembrance for what Armenians and others have described as genocide of Armenians by pre-republican Turkey. Turkey lifted the restrictions after the resolution failed to pass. The unresolved Armenian and Cyprus issues continue to disturb US-Turkish relations.
Principal US Officials
Ambassador-Morton I. Abramowitz Deputy Chief of Mission-Marc Grossman Counselors Political Affairs-Michael I. Austrian Political-Military Affairs-Regina Eltz Economic Affairs-Charles Jacobini Administrative Affairs-William Kelly Public Affairs Officer -Larry Taylor Defense/Air Attache-Col. Jerry Kafka Navy Attache-Capt. Jesse James Army Attache-Col. Robert Jiminez Consuls General Istanbul-Thomas Carolan Izmir-Eugene Zajac Consul Adana-Harry Cole
US Mission Addresses
The US embassy is located at 110 Ataturk Blvd., Ankara. The consulate general in Istanbul is at 104-108 Mesrutiyet Caddesi; the consulate general in Izmir at 92 Ataturk Caddesi, third floor; and the consulate in Adana, on Ataturk Caddesi.


The Turkish economy underwent dramatic changes in the 1980s. An export-led growth strategy and free-market principles catapulted Turkey into the ranks of the fastest growing economies in the OECD. Turkey's free market orientation is dynamic, and it is unlikely to return to former inward-looking policies. The industrial sector has assumed greater importance in the Turkish economy, although the public sector, which includes state-owned or controlled enterprises, still accounts for about one-third of industrial production. Ozal's Motherland Party has reinforced and expanded economic reforms since coming to power in 1983. Agriculture continues as a mainstay, employing almost half the total labor force in the production of cotton, tobacco, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Because of the productivity of Turkey's soil and the efforts of Turkish farmers, the country was one of the few in the world that was self-sufficient in food during the 1980s. Ambitious government projects, including a $21 billion irrigation program to create a new "fertile crescent" in the semiarid southeast, stress agriculture's important role in foreign trade. Turkey's regional climatic diversity and usually adequate rainfall permit a broad ange of crops. Growth in GNP averaged almost 7% between 1983 and 1989. The pace of Turkey's growth, however, slowed in the late 1980s. Unrestrained government spending, rapid economic development, and drought conditions have had a price: unemployment stands at 14.4%, and inflation remains steady at almost 70%. One of the main reasons for inflation is the public sector deficit, which reached 7.5% of GNP in 1989 and is expected to exceed that ratio in 1990. Severe drought conditions were a major factor in a recession that continued into 1989. Agricultural production dropped by almost 11%, pushing real GNP growth to the lowest level since 1980-1.8%. Turkish authorities have enacted austerity measures to reduce inflation, including an ambitious program to privatize inefficient state economic enterprises that contribute substantially to the deficit. Better than normal agricultural conditions led to economic recovery in 1990, with real GNP growth expected to reach 9%. Yet, lower import duties-reduced to stimulate domestic production and demand by creating greater competition-and the Turkish lira's real appreciation against currencies of its primary trading partners, the United States and Germany, led to a major acceleration in imports and stagnation in export growth in 1990. The trade deficit further worsened as all commercial relations with Iraq were suspended. A current account deficit in excess of $1 billion is expected for 1990. Domestic economic problems were offset in the 1980s by substantial improvements in Turkey's external account as exports expanded from $5.7 billion in 1983 to $11.6 billion in 1989. Turkey posted a current account surplus of $1.5 billion in 1988, the first time since 1973. This remarkable improvement came as a result of the lowest trade deficit in a decade ($1.8 billion) and a jump of about 60% in tourism revenues (from $1.48 billion to $2.36 billion). In 1989, a surplus of $966 million was achieved. Turkey has an exemplary record for repayment of its foreign debt, which stabilized at $41 billion at the end of 1989. Turkey refinanced military debts during 1988 and 1989 by exchanging them for long-term commercial credits. Turkey has attracted foreign investment by implementing one of the more liberal foreign investment laws in the world. Between 1981 and 1989, net foreign direct investment increased from $95 million to $633 million. As of mid-1990, the government had authorized foreign direct investment projects totaling $5.6 billion. Turkey's economic orientation is increasingly toward the West, although it is looking for new markets in Asia and the Middle East. In April 1987, Turkey applied for full membership in the EC. In 1989, the EC announced it would consider no new members before 1993, the target for completion of the EC's single market plan. In 1990, the EC called for closer economic cooperation with Turkey under the existing association agreement and will review Turkey's membership application. With potential membership in the EC as the catalyst, Turkey continues to liberalize its economy and harmonize related legislation to bring it closer to Western standards. In the 1990s, measured economic growth with financial stability will remain a major domestic goal.


Customs: A visa is not required of holders of US tourist passports (regular, official, or diplomatic) who plan to stay in Turkey for 3 months or less. Persons who plan to come to Turkey for longer stays must apply for a visa from a Turkish embassy or consulate. Currency: There are no restrictions on the importation of Turkish lira or hard currencies into Turkey. However, residents of Turkey must declare all currencies in excess of the equivalent of $5,000 upon entry. Visitors to Turkey may exchange Turkish lira up to the equivalent of $5,000 into foreign currency without any documentation. Climate and clothing: Clothing and shoe requirements are about the same as for the eastern US. Climate on the periphery (Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana) is Mediterranean with cool, rainy winters and hot, moderately dry summers. The Black Sea coast receives the greatest rainfall. Shielded by mountains, the interior (Ankara) has continental climate with cold winters and dry, hot summers. Climate in the eastern mountainous area is often severe. Health: Public health standards in the larger cities approach those in the US, but care must be taken, especially in rural areas. While tap water in major cities is generally potable, it is recommended that bottled water be used at all times, because of possible intermittent contamination of water lines. Turkish law requires that at least one pharmacy be open in a neighborhood at all times. Telecommunications: Telephone and telegraph services, domestic and international, and generally dependable. During peak hours, circuits are often overloaded. Turkey is seven hours ahead of EST. Daylight savings time is used. Transportation: More than 20 scheduled airlines connect Turkey with all parts of the world. Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, and Dalaman are Turkey's primary international airports. Turkish Airlines (THY), Turkish state railways, and a variety of intercity bus companies serve many points in Turkey, Europe, and the Middle East. Local buses, share cabs, and minibuses (dolmus), although somewhat crowded, provide satisfactory local transportation. Taxis are readily available. Main roads are fairly good in and between the large centers; secondary roads are generally adequate. Roads frequently lack shoulders. Drivers should exercise extreme care because of heavy truck and other traffic, and unpredictable drivers. Driving at night in the countryside should be avoided because of many or poorly-lit vehicles on the highway.
Publications Concerning Turkey
Also available from the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 20402: Turkey Post Report-US Department of State (1990). Turkey, A Country Study- American University (1989). Foreign Labor Trends- US Department of Labor. Foreign Economic Trends-US Department of Commerce. Economic trends and trade information is available from the International Trade Administration, US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC, 20230, or from any Commerce Department district office. Published by the United States Department of State - Bureau of Public Affairs - Office of Public Communication - Washington, DC -- January 1991. Editor: Deborah Guido-O'Grady. Department of State Publication 7850 Background Notes Series. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 20402. (###)